Aragon leans on innovation to build communities that work


What makes the best home, neighbourhood, community? At Aragon Properties Ltd., the answer comes from a simple mantra – quality, innovation and design.

Aragon focuses on whole neighbourhoods, both large and small, and the experience homebuyers and their neighbours will have once they settle in.

"Aragon has been around for 20 years, building a range of mostly multi-family commercial and mixed-use buildings," says David Roppel, Aragon's Director of Planning and Development. "We do fairly unique housing types, such as fee simple row houses and loft housing; things that are not often done.

"We also place a high focus on materials, which are typically towards the higher end of the market – lots of brick, high quality interior finishes, high ceilings, exposed wood, and so on."

Participating in BC Hydro's Power Smart New Home program has been a good fit for Aragon, which includes ENERGY STAR® appliances in all of its homes, and uses efficient lighting and ventilation systems.

"[Power Smart] helps us find solutions," he says. "We propose ideas and they help us make them better – whether it's higher levels of insulation in our current project, or the geothermal systems in the case of Avant and The Station.

"It's very important, and very effective. Buyers and users recognize BC Hydro Power Smart; it's a well understood brand."

Unique sites, livable communities

Aragon seeks unique sites, the kind that provide opportunity, but also challenges.

The result is energy efficient, livable communities like Port Royal, a master plan community in New Westminster on a remediated brownfield site where an old mill once stood on the shores of the Fraser River.

The project includes a range of housing types, including row houses, multi-family dwellings and cluster houses.

"The design incorporates the history of the site, both in terms of its working industrial heritage and looking forward to how the river is used now, with pedestrian walkways and getting people out to the river," says Roppel. "The parks – the central park and the riverfront walkway – are really the heart of Port Royal. We worked to transform an empty site into what we hope is now a vibrant area for the people who live there."

The 40-acre site will include 1,100 homes, with all single family homes rated EnerGuide 80 or higher, a quality standard for energy efficiency.

Homes make use of brick, masonry, and other long-lasting materials. Many of the neighbourhoods use geothermal energy for heating and cooling, which provides superior comfort over traditional heating systems, for less monthly cost.

Avant: stacked townhouses with views in East Van

Aragon's innovative approach was also evident at Avant, a townhome project in Vancouver's Hastings-Sunrise area built on a small, unused former industrial site.

A more typical use would have been a giant warehouse, but Roppel says that "wasn't right for the neighbourhood."

"So we brought what we think is a more appropriate use, moderate density residential," says Roppel of Avant's unusual stacked townhouses that serve up an expansive roof deck with uninterrupted views to the North Shore mountains and Burrard Inlet.

"The quality is there in the materials, and the design was very explicit, developed in working directly with the City and the neighbours. The buildings are oriented as fingers that project out perpendicular to the street, allowing views between each building similar to what you would have if we put single family houses there."

Roppel said the project's density is higher than single-family homes but avoids the typical long, four-story building that "would line the whole street and block views in all directions."

Avant employs geothermal energy for heating, and all homes are rated EG80 or higher.

Next up? The Station in Port Moody

Aragon's next project is The Station, a few blocks from the West Coast Express Station and the waterfront in Port Moody. Here, the developer is working closely with the City to revitalize a stretch of historic street.

"St. Johns Street was a great street and will be again," says Roppel. "It's busy, but it's ideal for slightly higher density mixed-use projects like ours, which will incorporate 106 apartments and townhouses, plus commercial venues.

"Our goal is to activate St. Johns Street, bring additional life to it. And north of the project is Spring Street, which is currently underutilized and treated more like a lane even though it's an important street. We're redesigning Spring Street to make it a friendly, walkable street that's more focused on the pedestrian and less on the car, an alternate route for pedestrians."